YA Science Fiction Thriller
To escape dying Earth, seventeen-year-old Lesha and her little brother take passage to Eris, a newly-colonized planet halfway across the galaxy. The ship crashes in Eris’ wasteland, stranding her far from civilization with only a few survivors... including the man who stalked her on Earth, Riley.
If lack of supplies doesn’t kill them, flesh-eating snakes that erupt from the sand just might. Fellow survivor Malik swears he’ll get the group to safety or die trying. Lesha lived through famine and riots back home--no way will she let some hot-shot military dude with a savior complex tell her what to do.
But after they find a boy’s mutilated corpse in a sick desert shrine, it’s clear something stalks them. Something predatory. Something else. To protect her brother, Lesha must work with Riley and Malik, before their alien hunter picks them off one by one.
First five pages:
Screams hit me when I entered our room at Relocation Bunker Number Four.
“They’re doing it again, Lesha.” My eight-year-old brother huddled on his bed, brown eyes focused on the televid mounted on the cinderblock wall. He clutched his worn, stuffed rabbit to his face, and dented his lower lip with his thumb.
Dropping the backpacks I’d retrieved from the storage unit onto the floor, I stared at the screen. A roving camera flew above the protesters racing through the streets, zooming in, highlighting the lines of fear on their faces. From the buildings around them, I recognized an area near us in South Boston. When had they come so close?
Tear gas canisters tumbled on the ground, spewing chalky smoke. Police dressed in full SWAT gear stomped behind the protesters. Deportation vans hovered in the distance, ready to haul those caught to some undisclosed location. Never to return.
“Run,” I hissed.
Joe’s thumb slid into his mouth.
I’d shut the vid off if I wasn’t so mesmerized by the scene myself. I fidgeted with the end of my braid, and the inky strands coiled tight around my fingers. I gnawed on the tips like I was five again.
“Riots.” I shuddered, scattering the images. They were pointless. Picketing and throwing homemade bombs at government buildings wouldn’t end starvation. You couldn’t feed people if you couldn’t grow food.
The vid cut to a ReGreen commercial. A dreamy, computer voice drifted through the room. “First the bees died. Then much of our plant life. But this doesn’t mean the end of Earth.”
The leaders of ReGreen needed to stop inhaling the hovertram fumes.
No amount of wishful thinking could change the facts. Years of floods were followed by endless drought. Wildfires burned whatever remained, leaving next to nothing for plants to take root in. Or kids, for that matter.
Stretching, I released my tension with a pop in my back. I sat on my bed and unzipped my bag. “Get packing, Joe.”
“Thirty percent of our plant and animal species are extinct,” the voice said. From what I’d learned during Orientation, they better up that to fifty.
“Never fear.” The words burst through a crescendo of uplifting music. “This is just a phase in our planet’s never-ending life cycle.” A picture from Earth’s history played on the screen. Lush, green vegetation swayed in a light breeze, nestled under a clear, blue sky. What a joke. No one had seen blue sky for years.
“Call it whatever you want,” I told the screen. “Cyclical. Global Warming. Life Cycle. Giving it a name doesn’t change what’s happening.”
“We must be patient,” ReGreen reminded us.
I snorted. Done with that.
My voice chimed in with the computer’s as the Group’s slogan flashed on the screen, signaling the end of the commercial. “The Recovery is at hand.”
My wrist com beeped. “We need to leave for the spaceport soon, kiddo.” I nudged Joe’s shoulder. “Turn the televid off. Go wash. Put on a clean durasuit.”
He groaned. As he stomped past me toward the bathroom, I ruffled his kinky hair. He swatted at my hand, but I couldn’t resist. He looked so damned cute when it stood on end.
In our old life, he’d have slammed the washroom door to punctuate his irritation. An electronic panel took the zip right out of his hovercraft.
The Colony Project selected Joe and me in the getaway lottery just before I turned seventeen. Our parents had been gone a year, and we lived with Uncle. When the lists came out, he dumped us at the Relocation Bunker gate with one bag between us. We hadn’t heard from him since. No loss there. Uncle was big on heavy-handed discipline.
Tonight, we’d board a starship to Eris, a planet halfway across the galaxy, to join a colony settled ten years ago. We’d be our own little family from now on. Joe and me.
Opening my bag, I started packing with the items in the stand wedged between our beds. A sad smile twisted my lips as I lifted the digital picture frame resting in its place of honor on the table. Taken three years before, the short vid clip projected our family’s last fine moment before an accident upended our world.
Dad had his arm around Mom’s shoulders, and they giggled and smiled more at each other than at the camera. I stood beside them, a gangly, fourteen-year-old jumble of skinny arms and legs, black hair hanging in my eyes like strands of wet seaweed. Joe danced by my side, a goofy grin on his brown face.
I stroked their faces before wrapping the frame in two of Dad’s t-shirts and tucking it into the middle pouch. Hauling my things from the drawer, I weighed each item like gold. Our instructors told us we could bring one bag of personal possessions on the ship. Sucked I couldn’t take everything.
Essential stuff first. I couldn’t live without my digital journal and stylus. If I didn’t write before bed each night, I’d lose my mind. No way would I leave Mom’s blue dress here. It was the only thing I had left of hers.
I stuffed in my first aid kit. As much as I wanted to take everything that reminded me of my family, safety came next.
Exhaling a long breath, I shifted the kit sideways and wedged in my glolight. It would get dark at night in our new world. I’d need it to see. To give the frame added protection, I rolled a few long-sleeved shirts and tucked them in on either side.
I didn’t have to bring clothes. They’d pack boxes of durasuits in the ship’s hold. Woven from nylatec, they lasted forever. Impervious to stains and tears. In fourteen different styles and twenty-seven shades of the rainbow. That’s what the televid commercials said.
I set my orange treds aside to wear later. I scored my favorite footwear at a reclamation warehouse. Someone had tucked them behind a set of antique dishes. Despite their age, they showed little wear. They hadn’t come cheap, but every girl needed something bright in her life, especially when her planet had fallen to pieces. And I was a sucker for anything orange.
I zipped the bag closed with trembling fingers and stared at the flecked grout lines between the blocks on the wall above Joe’s bed.
A heady mix of excitement and trepidation muddled together inside me. I wanted to go. Who wouldn’t? Lots of people outside the false insulation of the Bunker would kill for the chance we’d been given.
“Eris.” The name of my future home slipped past my lips like a prayer.
Why did this traitorous, bittersweet mix of sadness and joy flood my soul?
I needed to cut it out. We had to escape this dying, third rock from the sun before it imploded. Or exploded. Or whatever it planned to do.